Volunteer Spotlight: Barb DeCheubel
Barb is an amazing volunteer; she steps up wherever and whenever needed, she even changed her travel plans to help GiGi’s with the Navy Stadium Concessions Fundraiser! Wow, what a generous person! Barb has volunteered in support of many of our programs including GiGi Prep, Art Explosion, Fantastic Friends, International Explorers and Yoga. She always arrives dressed in a GiGi’s shirt, sharing the love! In addition to programming, Barb also helped with our fundraising efforts in the GiGiFIT Acceptance Challenge, Annapolis Bouquet Blitz effort and at the USNA Navy-Marines Memorial Stadium Concessions stand. We are incredibly grateful for Barb’s time, talents and wonderful compassionate spirit. Through her volunteerism, Barb honors Becky, her beloved sister, and Lucas, her awesome nephew who has Down syndrome. Barb brings joy and learning to GiGi’s Annapolis participants.
We were so happy to meet Lucas and his Mom Becky virtually in May 2020, when our programs went virtual due to the pandemic. They lived several hours away from their local Playhouse in Michigan, so it made it challenging to commute to in person programming. His mom had talked about the idea of them making a summer trip to Maryland to visit her sister Barb, living about 30 miles from Annapolis and dropping into the Playhouse when they were in the area.
Becky wrote, “We started GiGi’s Detroit last Spring. It’s a 2-hour commute (each way) so we ended up not attending often. Currently, we are loving GiGi’s at home! It’s a win for Lucas for sure. I just was looking at other GiGi’s across USA. My sister lives in Maryland so I checked yours out, thinking when we visit her we could meet your group!”
Lucas enjoyed joining the Annapolis TeenTastic and Fantastic Friends programs, as well as other Playhouses’ virtual activities like the dances, music, GiGi’s Kitchen. He was an outgoing contributor to the programs. Program Leaders Tracy and Darla loved having him participate with his big, bright personality and all the participants became fast friends. Lucas loved showing how he could spin a basketball on his finger in the “TeenTastic Talent Show!”
His mom shared, “Thanks for including Lucas today. TeenTastic is one of the classes I enjoy most for Lucas….peers close to his age. I also have him attending Fantastic Friends because he will be 18 in a few weeks! He likes music but he’s one of the oldest in the groups. So many choices for him! I love them being online for him. I am in a wheelchair and our nearest GiGi’s is almost 2 hours each way. I
am attaching a pic of my cool dude on TeenTastic pool day. Plus, I stole your idea with the game. We are doing it for his spelling words! Lucas is legally blind. Though he enjoyed the game it was straining on his eyes…. especially when he chose the “goggles” over his bifocals! Lol! Teenagers!” and “Lucas currently wants to do the GiGi programs without me. I’m a bit disappointed because I enjoy meeting everyone too!”
Unfortunately, life took a tragic turn when Barb’s sister Becky, Lucas’ mother, unexpectedly passed away in June 2020. We received a call from Barb, explaining why Lucas was no longer attending programs and could she come to visit GiGi’s. Our hearts ached for Barb, Lucas, and their family. Barb shared with us how much GiGi’s Playhouse meant to Becky and Lucas and how she would like to give back in her memory by getting involved. Volunteering helps Barb to feel close to her sister and she knows it would make Becky happy that she is actively contributing through GiGi’s programs by serving others at the Playhouse.
Barb is currently a one-to-one tutor teaching Money Math in GiGi Prep and supports many other GiGi’s programs and events. We are so blessed to spend time with Barb. We know her sister is surely smiling knowing how much Barb is helping other participants like Lucas build skills and friendship through the Playhouse. Thank you, Barb, for sharing your friendship and kindness during such a difficult time, and making something precious out of a deep tragedy. The GiGi’s Annapolis family loves you so much; “Friends are the family you choose with your heart.”
“Volunteering at GiGi’s means so much to me and brings me such joy. My sister Becky was a bright light in my life and an advocate for people with Down syndrome and people with disabilities. She truly showed me how to be good to people. I hope to continue volunteering at GiGi’s for years to come.”
In loving memory of Becky